52 Ancestors: Dr. Donald Monfort Seward #29

This week’s theme is “Music.”

His birth certificate says “Montford” but he used “Monfort” when writing out his full name. My late grandfather was supposed to have been named for our ancestor who was one of the first Europeans to immigrate to New Amsterdam, now New York City: Pieter Janse Monfoort.

Back in grad school I discovered that my  3rd great grandfather Philander Seward played the violin and kept a notebook of his favorite tunes by coming across an article in a music journal I was reading. Back in 1929, my grandfather picked up a German-made violin in Hong Kong while serving as a Marine. I will have to confer with one of my Aunts about whether he knew how to play it when he bought it, but by the time he was a math professor at Ouachita Baptist College, he played well enough to join a faculty string quartet.

That same violin was given to me when I started 7th grade and had grown enough to play a full sized instrument. Grandpa Seward had stopped playing because of arthritis and I was the only grandchild who had continued playing violin. (My sister had moved on to cello by then) When he got to his 80th decade, Grandpa realized he missed playing and picked up an inexpensive instrument through a classified ad and started playing folk songs and hymns remembered from his younger days.

My family is very fortunate to have a video taken by one of my aunts of my grandfather talking about his life in the early 20th Century and playing songs from memory. We call it his “Senior Recital.”

Is musical talent passed on in the genes? I certainly treasure both my violin and my love of music whether it was taught or inherited.


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